Bonnard links

15th April 2019

John Wyver writes: You have just three further weeks to experience the exceptional exhibition Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory at Tate Modern, which closes on 6 May. Having executive produced a BBC2 film about Bonnard back in June 1992 for the Artists Journeys series, which featured Eric Fischl exploring his work, and having seen a whole bunch of shows featuring his paintings, I thought I knew his art to some extent. And I was often slightly disappointed by it. But not in this brilliantly selected and hung exhibition, which for me was revelatory. Above is one of the great works on display: ‘The Bath’, 1925. Here’s Tate’s video introduction to the show with curators Matthew Gale and Helen O’Malley:

Among the many reviews of the show that I’ve read, these are the most interesting and substantial:

  • Pierre Bonnard review – monumental, monstrous – and rubbish at dogs: to start, a rare sceptical response from Adrian Searle for Guardian.
  • Pierre Bonnard’s beauty and sadness: Michael Prodger for New Statesman: ‘Bonnard’s paintings are in effect still lifes. Even when peopled by Marthe or children and animals they are expressions of Wordsworth’s “emotion recollected in tranquillity”. The placement of fruit on a plate, the audacious cropping of a figure by a doorframe or mirror edge, or the veering angle of a rug or table were for him a means of recapturing a moment in time: the comparison with Proust seems inescapable.’
  • At Tate Modern: Alice Sprawls for London Review of Books: ‘While in reproduction Bonnard’s paintings lie still and accessible, their colours fixed and flattened, when you are in front of them the canvases seem to swim; his habit of painting everything with equal intensity, equal vividness, means that even shadows and empty spaces are animated and his sometimes too fussy brushwork blurs edges and undermines depth.
  • How Pierre Bonnard became carried away by colour: Harriet Baker for Apollo: ‘Windows and door frames are painted in wavering brushstrokes, a mark of Bonnard’s indecision as a painter, but also his attention to porousness, to the movement between interior and exterior environments.’
Pierre Bonnard, The Toilet, c. 1908, Musée d’Orsay

An engrossing way to experience Bonnard’s work without leaving home is through WikiArt’s 235 reproductions of his paintings, arranged in chronological order, and which for the most part are of very good quality.

Another exceptional free resource is the .pdf of MoMA’s catalogue from their (and Tate’s) 1998 retrospective. This features exceptional essays by Sarah Whitfield and John Elderfield.

Pierre Bonnard: A Love Exposed is a fine 1998 BBC documentary directed by Eleanor Yule and linked to the exhibition when it was at Tate:

Exploring Bonnard through online collection entries is an interesting way to see how different museums present his artworks (some from Tate Modern’s show, some not) – each of the following has a full entry:

  • Misia Godebska, 1908, from Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
  • The Toilet, c. 1908, from Musée d’Orsay, Paris (above, and one of the most exquisite works at Tate Modern)
  • Earthly Paradise, 1916-20, Art Institute of Chicago
  • L’Estérel, 1917, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (and interestingly one of the few works at Tate Modern of which non-commercial photography is specifically prohibited)
  • Nude in the Bath, 1925, from Tate, London
  • The Bathroom, 1932, from MoMA, New York
  • The Terrace at Vernonnet, 1939, from the The Met, New York

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